The Ghost Mom Of Christmas Past

by Jenna Hanan Moore

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m alone. My husband is out walking our dog, and I’ve turned off the radio because they played “The Little Drummer Boy” one too many times. The only sound is the wind outside, portending the storm to come. If the forecast holds, we’ll be snowed in for days.

The quiet is shattered by a raspy voice. “There once was a ghost who haunted the darkened streets of the town,” the voice hisses behind me, its pitch rising and falling in a stereotypically ghostly cadence.

I haven’t heard that voice in seven years, but even with the spooky affectation, I’d recognize it anywhere. It belongs to my mother.

She continues her story. “He died one cold, dark Christmas Eve wandering the lonely streets with his dog.” She sounds more like a Scooby Doo villain than the ghost of Jacob Marley. “To this day he haunts the town looking for dog walkers to—”

“That’s enough, Mom!” My voice isn’t as steady as I intend. I put down the roasting pan I’ve been scrubbing and turn around. No one is there.

Music takes the place of the voice. “The Little Drummer Boy.” I sigh, relieved. It must be her. She knows I hate that song. “I know it’s you. May as well show yourself.” She rematerializes.

My mother died seven years ago this month. Yet somehow, here she is, standing in my kitchen lighting a cigarette.

“What are you doing, Mom? You don’t smoke.”

She shrugs and blows perfect smoke rings. “I thought I’d give it a try. What harm can it do now? Can’t say I see the attraction, but it’s quite the ice breaker. When you’re a ghost, you need a good ice breaker.”

“I’ve missed you, Mom.” I try to hug her, but my arms pass through her. “But I don’t understand. If you can visit me, why haven’t you come before now?”

“There’s a probationary period before new ghosts can haunt their loved ones. Something about learning to understand our power so we won’t abuse it.”

“How long can you stay?” I ask.

“Not long. I need to pay your sister a visit. She thinks her house is haunted.”

“Somehow I don’t think showing up as a ghost will do much to convince her it’s not.”

“No, it didn’t,” she says, putting out her cigarette. It vanishes as soon as it’s extinguished. “But this time I’ll stay visible and tell her it’s me.”

My mom may be a ghost, and a mischievous one at that, but it’s better to have a ghost mom than no mom. Especially on Christmas Eve.

Mom leaves before my husband returns, but she promises to visit again.

Later, my husband and I sit by the fire sipping hot cocoa, the dog curled up beside us, as the blizzard moves in. He doesn’t ask why I’m in the Christmas spirit for the first time in seven years, and I don’t tell him.

Cheers, Mom. It just isn’t Christmas without you.

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